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Iverson's status unknown for playoff opener

Posted: Thursday April 18, 2002 5:05 PM
  Allen Iverson Allen Iverson led the league in scoring this season. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allen Iverson's status for the playoff opener against Boston won't be clear until he practices with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

While his teammates practiced Thursday, Iverson sat in a chair, resting his injured left hand -- an electronic stimulus device was attached -- on his lap.

"I'm just going to do what the doctor tells me," Iverson said. "If he clears me to play, then obviously I'm going to play. If he says he doesn't think it's a good idea for me to play, then I won't get out there and risk further injury. If I get hit on it hard enough and it's not healed, it's going to break the same way. If I can't play the way I'm used to playing, then I won't play."

Boston coach Jim O'Brien expects to see Iverson in action Sunday.

"I'm assuming he's going to be able to play," O'Brien said. "We'll prepare as if he is. If he's not, we'll find that out Sunday and we'll have to make some adjustments."

Iverson, who led the league in scoring with 31.4 points per game, missed the last 14 games of the regular season after breaking a bone in his left hand in a game against the Celtics on March 22.

He was cleared to begin shooting on Tuesday, but hasn't participated in a full practice.

"I anticipate having him back, but we'll see tomorrow," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "I know he'll be trying."

The defending Eastern Conference champions were 7-7 after Iverson went down, but played without Dikembe Mutombo and Derrick Coleman in the last two games -- both losses. The Sixers were 7-15 without Iverson this season, but also didn't have Aaron McKie and Eric Snow for five of those losses.

Though some believe Philadelphia plays better as a team without Iverson, the league's reigning MVP isn't worried about fitting into the offense when he gets back.

"I don't know how else to play, but one way," Iverson said. "I don't know what 'fit in' means. I guess that means when I'm open, sometimes don't take the shot or don't take as many shots. I fit in by the way I play. I play the same way. I know what my team needs me to do to be successful and that's what I do. I play the way I was taught to play."

Iverson missed the first five games of the season after surgery on his right elbow, and was bothered by the injury throughout the year. He shot just 39.8 percent -- the worst of his career -- and averaged 5.5 assists per game.

"We benefited by his absence. Other guys stepped up and defined their roles a little better," Brown said. "They definitely should have more confidence and we get a big shot in the arm with him coming back. He's a phenomenal player and he'll take a lot of offensive pressure off a lot of people if he plays the way he's capable of playing."

If Iverson plays Sunday, the Sixers might be close to having a full lineup for just the fifth time this season. Both Mutombo (left knee tendinitis) and Coleman (left knee hyperextension) practiced Thursday, and are expected to play. Reserve forward Corie Blount (right knee contusion) didn't practice, however.

"We don't have time to get everybody healthy," said McKie, who missed 34 games this season to various injuries. "It's time to play."

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